Designing Garments for Extreme Situations

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The Chembio Suit Design Challenge 

This challenge was originally a US competition from 2016 encouraging people from a wide range of disciplines to think about solutions to designing garments that are chemical and biological warfare resistant, but that are also comfortable with easy manoeuvrability and with integrated heat management systems. 

The challenge might be useful to adapt as a quick design challenge or homework linked to technical textiles. The resources section has a video and fact sheets that might be useful. The issue of warfare is a sensitive one so this challenge might not be suitable for all contexts but the idea could be adapted for other contexts such as natural or man made disasters. Find out more about the challenge


  • Name the different types of situations where extreme protection clothing might be required.
  • Choose one of the situations you have identified. What are the challenges of designing for these extreme conditions? What properties would a garment need to have?
  • Investigate different types of smart and modern materials might be useful when creating heat management systems. Here are some keywords to get you thinking: Phase Change Materials (PCM), wicking, nanotechnology, thermochromic. 
  • Compare the different types of clothing that is currently available for different extreme situations. How might you use the designs and technologies from one area to develop products for a different extreme situation e.g. using technology used by the armed forces to protect workers on a construction site. 

Other links

Bullet proof vest

Think about these materials used in extreme situations:

How a bullet proof vest is made and how it works (including testing)

Shorter clip taken from the above video that just shows the testing of a bullet proof vest

Slash testing on Kevlar

Range of anti slash clothing for different uses

The Skinsuit worn by astronauts to help combat the effects of gravity

Return to the Disasters, Emergencies & Extreme Situations page to see all resources 

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